Cavaliers press on through adversityPublished 10:22pm Friday, March 28, 2014
The Lakeland High School boys’ soccer team fell 8-0 to host Oscar Smith High School on Thursday, forming part of an 0-3 start to what continues to be an uphill battle.
“The situation did not really change from last year to this year,” Cavaliers head coach Nizar Arfaoui said on Friday.
Last year, the participation number was low for boys’ soccer at Lakeland, and what little change has occurred has tended toward fewer players.
Ten out of the 14 players on Lakeland’s roster from 2013 were seniors who have graduated, and one out of the remaining four, Mike King, moved away.
Arfaoui identified two key reasons for his shortage of players. The first is the popularity of baseball, basketball and football, including year-around training, and “most kids have a tendency to go to those sports instead of going to soccer because it’s not that famous.”
He said the second reason for low turnout is that there is no follow-up with youths who get started; they are not learning and building on what they were first taught.
But Arfaoui is spearheading efforts to help grow soccer at Lakeland. He has reached out to John F. Kennedy Middle School and Forest Glen Middle School to bring in some eighth-graders to play on the junior varsity team.
He made a point to thank the parents who were willing make the sacrifices necessary to help their children come to JV practices.
Arfaoui also expressed gratitude to Lakeland activities director Gregory Rountree, who recruited athletes from some of the school’s other sports to lend their time and talents to varsity soccer team.
The Cavs experienced more adversity after their first game this season when junior Kenyon Strickland experienced a collapsed lung.
Strickland plays goalkeeper and Arfaoui said, “He’s one of my best players.”
He came in contact with an opponent, but was able to continue playing to the end of the game. The coach said it was the next morning when Strickland realized something was wrong and he was hospitalized.
“He’s like a warrior,” Arfaoui said. “He has the spirit to continue even though he is hurt.”
The Cavs will now need to embody that spirit.
“I’m at the stage of building a team,” Arfaoui said. He noted there will need to be some adjustment due to Strickland’s absence, but said, “I will guarantee this — we will compete no matter what.”
Arfaoui has confidence his team will be able to make forward progress despite this rough start. He also favors the Virginia High School League’s realignment.
When listing standouts, Arfaoui led defensive midfielder Nolan Knights, his only senior this year. He said Knights helps the team re-group in the midfield and participates in the attack.
The coach highlighted junior Jeremy Hill for his skills on defense.
“He anticipates the moves of the opponent, he closes gaps,” Arfaoui said. “He’s very alert.”
He said Hill is also in sync with freshman defender Adam Worley.
“He is one of my best players,” Arfaoui said of Worley, who is the last line of defense before the goalkeeper.
Lakeland is counting on junior attacking midfielder Jordan Hollins on the other side of the field to help bring some offense.
The Cavaliers were slated to visit Nansemond River High School on Friday night, weather permitting.